Reliance On Coal Divides European States

Reliance On Coal Divides European States

Poland’s Turów lignite mine and power plant, contested by Germany and the Czech Republic. Image: By qbanez, via Wikimedia Commons

Two European states with a traditional reliance on coal are taking radically different paths as the climate crisis worsens.

Both countries are in the European Union, both have for years been known for their reliance on coal. But now their policies could not differ more: one is turning away from coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, while the other is enthusiastically developing it.

At one end of the spectrum is Spain: it plans to close its last operating coal mine by the end of 2021. Not so long ago the country was heavily dependent on coal for its power: last year coal generated less than 5% of Spain’s electricity.

At the other extreme is Poland. Despite EU-wide commitments to phase out the use of coal over the coming years, Poland is still opening new coal pits and coal-fired power plants.

In recent days the government in Warsaw granted POLSKA PGE, the state-owned energy company, a permit to expand a lignite mine at Turów, on Poland’s borders with Germany and the Czech Republic.

According to campaign groups, the permit was rushed through without an environmental impact assessment being completed and before an appeals process was allowed to start.

Both Germany and the Czech Republic have protested about the mine.

“There is growing awareness in Poland about the dangers to the climate as a whole – and to the health of the population – of continued reliance on coal”

Belchatow power station in central Poland is Europe’s biggest coal-burning power station. Emitting an estimated 30 million tonnes of climate-changing greenhouse gases each year, it is also the most polluting. More than 80% of Poland’s electricity is generated from coal.

In Spain, more than 50,000 people were employed in coal mining in the mid-1990s, mainly in the northern province of Asturias. Mining communities formed an integral part of the country’s social fabric and played an important role in its history, having launched attacks against the forces of the dictator General Franco during Spain’s bitter civil war.

Over recent years the Spanish government has inaugurated a series of initiatives with mining communities, promising early retirement packages, money, and jobs in renewable power industries.

Analysts say a number of additional factors have helped Spain wean itself off coal. State subsidies to the industry have been cut.

Renewables flourish

The EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) has, after many years of inactivity and failed policy objectives, finally managed to set a price on carbon emissions which discourages large users of fossil fuels.

Falling prices for gas – a fossil fuel, but one with far lower emissions than coal – have helped Spain’s power turnaround. Spain has also made big investments in renewables such as wind and solar power.

But all is not rosy in Spain on the emissions front. While coal-burning emissions have fallen dramatically in recent years, greenhouse gas emissions from the transport and other sectors have risen by well above the EU average.

Poland does not have the solar advantages of sunny Spain. It also requires far more energy for heating purposes. Like Spain, Poland has a long coal-mining tradition and, despite many mine closures following the collapse of communism in the early 1990s, mining unions remain strong and exert considerable political influence.

Poland’s ruling populist Law and Justice Party has consistently backed the country’s coal lobby and the mining unions: large subsidies are still granted to the sector and legislation has recently come into force making it easier for operators to open new mines.

Independence cherished

There are wider political and security issues at play: historically, coal has been seen in Poland as vital, ensuring the country’s independence. Warsaw is acutely suspicious of any form of reliance on gas supplies from Russia for its energy needs.

But change could be on the way. There is growing awareness in Poland about the dangers to the climate as a whole – and to the health of the population – of continued reliance on coal. Protests have been held in several towns and cities about the impact of coal-mining on air quality and water supplies.

The EU is exerting more pressure on states to cut back on fossil fuel use and meet emission reduction targets.

In the end finance – or the lack of it – could be the key to reducing coal use. Financial institutions and insurers are becoming increasingly wary about investing or supporting coal projects.

Coal, within the EU and worldwide, is rapidly running out of friends. – Climate News Network

About the Author

cooke kieran

Kieran Cooke is co-editor of the Climate News Network. He is a former BBC and Financial Times correspondent in Ireland and Southeast Asia., http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/

This Article Originally Appeared On Climate News Network

Related Books

Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future

by Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann
1786634295How climate change will affect our political theory—for better and worse. Despite the science and the summits, leading capitalist states have not achieved anything close to an adequate level of carbon mitigation. There is now simply no way to prevent the planet breaching the threshold of two degrees Celsius set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What are the likely political and economic outcomes of this? Where is the overheating world heading? Available On Amazon

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis

by Jared Diamond
0316409138Adding a psychological dimension to the in-depth history, geography, biology, and anthropology that mark all of Diamond's books, Upheaval reveals factors influencing how both whole nations and individual people can respond to big challenges. The result is a book epic in scope, but also his most personal book yet. Available On Amazon

Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change

by Kathryn Harrison et al
0262514311Comparative case studies and analyses of the influence of domestic politics on countries' climate change policies and Kyoto ratification decisions. Climate change represents a “tragedy of the commons” on a global scale, requiring the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the Earth's well-being above their own national interests. And yet international efforts to address global warming have met with some success; the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized countries committed to reducing their collective emissions, took effect in 2005 (although without the participation of the United States). Available On Amazon

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

POLITICS

A Military Perspective On Climate Change Could Bridge The Gap Between Believers And Doubters
A Military Perspective On Climate Change Could Bridge The Gap Between Believers And Doubters
by Michael Klare
As experts warn that the world is running out of time to head off severe climate change, discussions of what the U.S.…
Revolutionary Change Needed To Stop Unprecedented Global Extinction Crisis
Revolutionary Change Needed To Stop Unprecedented Global Extinction Crisis
by Michelle Lim
Nearly a million species face extinction if we do not fundamentally change our relationship with the natural world,…
Countering Climate Denialism Requires Taking On Right-wing Populism.
Countering Climate Denialism Requires Taking On Right-wing Populism
by Richard Calland
History may in due course record 2019 as the year in which the penny finally dropped about the climate emergency…
Yes, More Carbon Dioxide In The Atmosphere Helps Plants Grow, But It’s No Excuse To Downplay Climate Change
Yes, More Carbon Dioxide In The Atmosphere Helps Plants Grow, But It’s No Excuse To Downplay Climate Change
by Vanessa Haverd, et al
The alarming rate of carbon dioxide flowing into our atmosphere is affecting plant life in interesting ways – but…
How CEOs, Experts And Philosophers See The World's Biggest Risks Differently
How CEOs, Experts And Philosophers See The World's Biggest Risks Differently
by Christopher Michaelson
We live in a world threatened by numerous existential risks that no country or organization can resolve alone, such as…
Reliance On Coal Divides European States
Reliance On Coal Divides European States
by Kieran Cooke
Two European states with a traditional reliance on coal are taking radically different paths as the climate crisis…
Scientists Hate To Say 'I Told You So'. But Australia, You Were Warned
Scientists Hate To Say 'I Told You So'. But Australia, You Were Warned
by Will Steffen
Without a radical change of course on climate change, Australians will struggle to survive on this continent
How To Really Hold Business To Account On Their Carbon Footprint
How To Really Hold Business To Account On Their Carbon Footprint
by Frederik Dahlmann
Many firms and organisations are now working hard to reduce their carbon emissions. And it is not just good public…

LATEST VIDEOS

PBS Nova's Polar Extremes
PBS Nova's Polar Extremes
by PBS
In this two-hour special, renowned paleontologist Kirk Johnson takes us on an epic adventure through time at the polar…
A huge iceberg just broke off West Antarctica’s most endangered glacier
A Huge Iceberg Just Broke Off West Antarctica’s Most Endangered Glacier
by Madeleine Stone
Huge blocks of ice regularly shear away from Antarctica’s ice shelves, but the losses are speeding up.
The Rise Of Solar Power
by CNBC
Solar power is on the rise. You can see the evidence on rooftops and in the desert, where utility-scale solar plants…
World's Largest Batteries: Pumped Storage
by Practical Engineering
The vast majority of our grid-scale storage of electricity uses this clever method.
Hydrogen Fuels Rockets, But What About Power For Daily Life?
Hydrogen Fuels Rockets, But What About Power For Daily Life?
by Zhenguo Huang
Have you ever watched a space shuttle launch? The fuel used to thrust these enormous structures away from Earth’s…
Fossil Fuel Production Plans Could Push Earth off a Climate Cliff
by The Real News Network
The United Nations is beginning its climate summit in Madrid.
Big Rail Spends More on Denying Climate Change than Big Oil
by The Real News Network
A new study concludes that rail is the industry that's injected the most money into climate change denial propaganda…
Did Scientists Get Climate Change Wrong?
by Sabine Hossenfelder
Interview with Prof Tim Palmer from the University of Oxford.

LATEST ARTICLES

Here Are 5 Practical Ways Trees Can Help Us Survive Climate Change
Here Are 5 Practical Ways Trees Can Help Us Survive Climate Change
by Gregory Moore
As the brutal reality of climate change dawned this summer, you may have asked yourself a hard question: am I…
A Military Perspective On Climate Change Could Bridge The Gap Between Believers And Doubters
A Military Perspective On Climate Change Could Bridge The Gap Between Believers And Doubters
by Michael Klare
As experts warn that the world is running out of time to head off severe climate change, discussions of what the U.S.…
Nearly 80% Of Australians Affected In Some Way By The Bushfires, New Survey Shows
Nearly 80% Of Australians Affected In Some Way By The Bushfires, New Survey Shows
by Nicholas Biddle, et al
Our research shows the vast majority of Australians were touched in some way by the fires. We asked about eight…
Changing Climate Has Stalled Australian Wheat Yields
Changing Climate Has Stalled Australian Wheat Yields
by Zvi Hochman; David L. Gobbett, and Heidi Horan, CSIRO
Australia’s wheat yields more than trebled during the first 90 years of the 20th century but have stalled since 1990.…
Renewable Energy Could Power The World By 2050
Renewable Energy Could Power The World By 2050
by Paul Brown
Wind, water and solar sources − the renewable energy trio − could meet almost all the needs of our power-hungry society…
Major Airlines Say They're Acting On Climate Change - Not So Much
Major Airlines Say They're Acting On Climate Change - Not So Much
by Susanne Becken
If you’re a traveller who cares about reducing your carbon footprint, are some airlines better to fly with than others?
PBS Nova's Polar Extremes
PBS Nova's Polar Extremes
by PBS
In this two-hour special, renowned paleontologist Kirk Johnson takes us on an epic adventure through time at the polar…
Uk Airports Must Shut To Reach 2050 Climate Target
Uk Airports Must Shut To Reach 2050 Climate Target
by Paul Brown
All UK airports must close by 2050 for the country to reach its target of net zero climate emissions by then,…